Rachel Grunwell

Rachel Grunwell is a fitness writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Fitness challenge: Ski lesson

Each week intrepid reporter Rachel Grunwell will try out a new form of exercise to bring you the lowdown.

Snowplanet instructor Ashleigh (left) teaches Trang Dai basic ski moves. Photo / Doug Sherring
Snowplanet instructor Ashleigh (left) teaches Trang Dai basic ski moves. Photo / Doug Sherring

What is it? An instructor skis beside you and shows you how to sharpen your skills.

What's needed? Bring your own woolly hat and socks (for hygiene reasons they don't rent these) and wear warm/waterproof clothing. You can rent ski gear (or bring your own).

The experience: In jeans and a long-sleeved T-shirt, I'd been basking in the unexpected winter sunshine at my central Auckland home. After a 30-minute drive north, I'm in waterproof gear (looking like a Michelin man) in the chilly -5C climate of Snowplanet's snowdome.

From the outside, Snowplanet looks like a giant garage on a Silverdale hillside. From the inside, it's a mock snow village with powder snow, lifts, a learners' slope and an advanced all terrain park for freestyle skiers and snowboarders. There's also an area for kids to play in the snow and another spot for tubing and tobogganing. Rock music blasts from multiple speakers.

It's New Zealand's only all-year round indoor snow resort that boasts on its website: "Life's more fun on Snowplanet".

I meet Ashleigh, a friendly, fresh-faced university student, who has been assigned to teaching new tricks to this old dog. I tell her it has been ages since I've been in temperatures good for ice-blocks, so I ask her to treat me as a beginner. She takes me on the "magic carpet", a conveyer belt up a small slope.

First, I'm taught how to stop before starting, so I'm not a danger to myself (or others). I do this by pointing my ski tips almost together (not touching) and putting my heels out to form what looks like a pizza wedge. The wider this slice of pizza, the slower I'll go.

To turn, it's all about transferring weight from one foot to another. I shift my weight on to the ski that is the opposite of where I want to head to. And I put my weight on to the opposite foot to head the other way. All the while I've got bent knees and I'm leaning forward slightly.

I try this a few times then, when I get used to the turns, a seated lift hauls us further up the hill. Here, I practise the controlled pizza wedges and turns.

After roughly 20 minutes, I'm told to ditch the pizza wedges and instead put my skis parallel and keep practising turns. I can go faster now, yay!

Ashleigh then leads me to the top of the 200m-long slope and keeps close watch. She's always skiing just behind me or ahead of me (skiing backwards to watch what I'm up to) and giving tips when we stop. One tip was practising with my arms out like I'm pushing a wall for a bit, to get the idea of where my hands ought to be.

After the 50-minute lesson, Ashleigh leaves me to practise. My husband, Damien, who has skied in Canada and Europe, has paid to join me and takes over the teaching (bossing me about). He gets me to continue shifting my weight to turn , but tells me to lift up the other ski slightly so I can turn more freely and with more style.

I spend three hours on the snow. It's good exercise. I gather more confidence and control, more speed and have loads of fun.

How much? There are lots of price options and membership rates, including an adult day pass $61 (child/student $42), morning adult pass until noon $32 (child/student $25), family day pass $159. Private lessons (standard is 50 minutes) cost from $79 and group lessons (1hr 50mins) are from $45 a person.

Worth it? Lessons improve your technique and at Snowplanet there is no bad weather, and no rocks nor trees to avoid. It's also within easy reach of Auckland up the northern motorway.

Try it: Snowplanet is at 91 Small Rd, Silverdale. General inquiries are at info@snowplanet.co.nz or ph (09) 427 0044.

Rating: 10/10

- Herald on Sunday

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